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Lift your lamp beside the golden door, Break not the golden rule, avoid well the golden calf, know; not all that glitters is gold, and laissez faire et laissez passer [let do and let pass] but as a shining sentinel, hesitate not to ring the bell, defend the gates, and man the wall


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

John Locke & The Two Treatises of Government

John Locke

29 August 1632 – 28 October 1704)  An English physician and philosopher regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers. Considered the first of the British empiricists, he is equally important to social contract theory. His work had a great impact upon the development of epistemology and political philosophy. His writings influenced Voltaire and Rousseau, many Scottish Enlightenment thinkers, as well as the American revolutionaries. His contributions to classical republicanism and liberal theory are reflected in the American Declaration of Independence.[2] Locke's theory of mind is often cited as the origin of modern conceptions of identity and the self, figuring prominently in the work of later philosophers such as Hume, Rousseau and Kant. Locke was the first to define the self through a continuity of consciousness. He postulated that the mind was a blank slate or tabula rasa. Contrary to pre-existing Cartesian philosophy, he maintained that we are born without innate ideas, and that knowledge is instead determined only by experience derived from sense perception.[3] Locke exercised a profound influence on political philosophy, in particular on what is modernly reffered to as Classical liberalism. Michael Zuckert has in fact argued that Locke launched liberalism by tempering Hobbesian absolutism and clearly separating the realms of Church and State. He had a strong influence on Voltaire who called him "le sage Locke". His arguments concerning liberty and the social contract later influenced the written works of Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and other Founding Fathers of the United States. In fact, several passages from the Second Treatise are reproduced verbatim in the Declaration of Independence, most notably the reference to a "long train of abuses." Such was Lockes influence, Thomas Jefferson wrote; "Bacon, Locke and Newton..I consider them as the three greatest men that have ever lived, without any exception, and as having laid the foundation of those superstructures which have been raised in the Physical and Moral sciences".[6][7][8] Today, most contemporary libertarians claim Locke as an influence. But Locke's influence may have been even more profound in the realm of epistemology. Locke redefined subjectivity, or self, and intellectual historians such as Charles Taylor and Jerrold Seigel argue that Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690) marks the beginning of the modern Western conception of the self.[9]
David Barton [Historian] -"critics today classify Locke as a deist or a forerunner of deism, but this is completely erroneous. Not only was John Locke considered a theologian by previous generations, but he even wrote a verse-by-verse commentary on Paul’s Epistles and also compiled a topical Bible, which he called a Common Place-Book to the Holy Bible, that listed the verses in the Bible, subject by subject. When anti-religious enlightenment thinkers attacked Christianity, Locke defended it in his book, The Reasonable-ness of Christianity as Delivered in the Scriptures. And then when he was attacked for defending Christianity in that first work, he responded with the work, A Vindication of the Reasonableness of Christianity. Still being attacked two years later, Locke wrote, A Second Vindication of the Reasonableness of Christianity. No wonder he was considered a theologian by his peers and by subsequent generations! However, the writing of John Locke that most influenced the Founders’ philosophy in the Declaration of Independence was his Two Treatises of Government. In fact, signer of the Declaration Richard Henry Lee declared that the Declaration itself was “copied from Locke’s Treatise on Government.” Even though that book is less than 400 pages long, Locke refers to the Bible over 1,500 times to show the proper operation of civil government!"
________________________________________Theories of Religious Tolerance
Locke, writing his Letters Concerning Toleration (1689-92) in the aftermath of the European wars of religion, formulated a classic reasoning for religious tolerance. Three arguments are central: (1) Earthly judges, the state in particular, and human beings generally, cannot dependably evaluate the truth-claims of competing religious standpoints; (2) Even if they could, enforcing a single "true religion" would not have the desired effect, because belief cannot be compelled by violence; (3) Coercing religious uniformity would lead to more social disorder than allowing diversity. [10] Some see his statements on unenclosed property as having justified the displacement of the Native Americans. Because of his opposition to aristocracy and slavery in his major writings, he is accused of hypocrisy, or of caring only for the liberty of English capitalists. Locke uses the word property in both broad and narrow senses. In a broad sense, it covers a wide range of human interests and aspirations; more narrowly, it refers to material goods. He argues that property is a natural right and it is derived from labor. Locke believed that ownership of property is created by the application of labor. In addition, property precedes government and government cannot "dispose of the estates of the subjects arbitrarily." Karl Marx later critiqued Locke's theory of property in his social theory. Locke's political theory was founded on social contract theory. Unlike Thomas Hobbes, Locke believed that human nature is characterized by reason and tolerance. Like Hobbes, Locke believed that human nature allowed men to be selfish. This is apparent with the introduction of currency. In a natural state all people were equal and independent, and everyone had a natural right to defend his “Life, health, Liberty, or Possessions", basis for the phrase in America; "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness".[12] Like Hobbes, Locke assumed that the sole right to defend in the state of nature was not enough, so people established a civil society to resolve conflicts in a civil way with help from government in a state of society. However, Locke never refers to Hobbes by name[13] and may instead have been responding to other writers of the day.[14] Locke also advocated governmental separation of powers and believed that revolution is not only a right but an obligation in some circumstances. These ideas would come to have profound influence on the Constitution of the United States and its Declaration of Independence.

Limits to Accumulation

Labor creates property, but it also does contain limits to its accumulation: man’s capacity to produce and man’s capacity to consume. According to Locke, unused property is waste and an offense against nature. However, with the introduction of “durable” goods, men could exchange their excessive perishable goods for goods that would last longer and thus not offend the natural law. The introduction of money marks the culmination of this process. Money makes possible the unlimited accumulation of property without causing waste through spoilage. He also includes gold or silver as money because they may be “hoarded up without injury to anyone,” since they do not spoil or decay in the hands of the possessor. The introduction of money eliminates the limits of accumulation. Locke stresses that inequality has come about by tacit agreement on the use of money, not by the social contract establishing civil society or the law of land regulating property. Locke is aware of a problem posed by unlimited accumulation but does not consider it his task. He just implies that government would function to moderate the conflict between the unlimited accumulation of property and a more nearly equal distribution of wealth and does not say which principles that government should apply to solve this problem. However, not all elements of his thought form a consistent whole. For example, labor theory of value of the Two Treatises of Government stands side by side with the demand-and-supply theory developed in a letter he wrote titled Some Considerations on the Consequences of the Lowering of Interest and the Raising of the Value of Money. Moreover, Locke anchors property in labor but in the end upholds the unlimited accumulation of wealth.


On Price Theory

Locke’s general theory of value and price is a supply and demand theory, which was set out in a letter to a Member of Parliament in 1691, titled Some Considerations on the Consequences of the Lowering of Interest and the Raising of the Value of Money.[15] Supply is quantity and demand is rent. “The price of any commodity rises or falls by the proportion of the number of buyer and sellers.” and “that which regulates the price... [of goods] is nothing else but their quantity in proportion to their rent.” The quantity theory of money forms a special case of this general theory. His idea is based on “money answers all things” (Ecclesiastes) or “rent of money is always sufficient, or more than enough,” and “varies very little…” Regardless of whether the demand for money is unlimited or constant, Locke concludes that as far as money is concerned, the demand is exclusively regulated by its quantity. He also investigates the determinants of demand and supply. For supply, goods in general are considered valuable because they can be exchanged, consumed and they must be scarce. For demand, goods are in demand because they yield a flow of income. Locke develops an early theory of capitalization, such as land, which has value because “by its constant production of saleable commodities it brings in a certain yearly income.” Demand for money is almost the same as demand for goods or land; it depends on whether money is wanted as medium of exchange or as loanable funds. For medium of exchange “money is capable by exchange to procure us the necessaries or conveniences of life.” For loanable funds, “it comes to be of the same nature with land by yielding a certain yearly income … or interest.”


Monetary thoughts

Locke distinguishes two functions of money, as a "counter" to measure value, and as a "pledge" to lay claim to goods. He believes that silver and gold, as opposed to paper money, are the appropriate currency for international transactions. Silver and gold, he says, are treated to have equal value by all of humanity and can thus be treated as a pledge by anyone, while the value of paper money is only valid under the government which issues it. Locke argues that a country should seek a favorable balance of trade, lest it fall behind other countries and suffer a loss in its trade. Since the world money stock grows constantly, a country must constantly seek to enlarge its own stock. Locke develops his theory of foreign exchanges, in addition to commodity movements, there are also movements in country stock of money, and movements of capital determine exchange rates. The latter is less significant and less volatile than commodity movements. As for a country’s money stock, if it is large relative to that of other countries, it will cause the country’s exchange to rise above par, as an export balance would do. He also prepares estimates of the cash requirements for different economic groups (landholders, laborers and brokers). In each group the cash requirements are closely related to the length of the pay period. He argues the brokers – middlemen – whose activities enlarge the monetary circuit and whose profits eat into the earnings of laborers and landholders, had a negative influence on both one's personal and the public economy that they supposedly contributed to.


The Self

Locke defines the self as "that conscious thinking thing, (whatever substance, made up of whether spiritual, or material, simple, or compounded, it matters not) which is sensible, or conscious of pleasure and pain, capable of happiness or misery, and so is concerned for itself, as far as that consciousness extends".[16] He does not, however, ignore "substance", writing that "the body too goes to the making the man."[17] The Lockean self is therefore a self-aware and self-reflective consciousness that is fixed in a body. In his Essay, Locke explains the gradual unfolding of this conscious mind. Arguing against both the Augustinian view of man as originally sinful and the Cartesian position, which holds that man innately knows basic logical propositions, Locke posits an "empty" mind, a tabula rasa, which is shaped by experience; sensations and reflections being the two sources of all our ideas.[18] John Locke's formulation of tabula rasa in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding was influenced by a 17th century Latin translation Philosophus Autodidactus (published by Edward Pococke) of the Arabic Arabic philosophical novel Hayy ibn Yaqzan by the 12th century Andalusian-Islamic philosopher and novelist Ibn Tufail (known as "Abubacer" or "Ebn Tophail" in the West). Ibn Tufail demonstrated the theory of tabula rasa as a thought experiment through his Arabic philosophical novel novel Hayy ibn Yaqzan in which he depicted the development of the mind of a feral child "from a tabula rasa to that of an adult, in complete isolation from society" on a desert island, through experience alone.[19] Locke's Some Thoughts Concerning Education is an outline on how to educate this mind: he expresses the belief that education maketh the man, or, more fundamentally, that the mind is an "empty cabinet", with the statement, "I think I may say that of all the men we meet with, nine parts of ten are what they are, good or evil, useful or not, by their education."[20] Locke also wrote that "the little and almost insensible impressions on our tender infancies have very important and lasting consequences."[21] He argued that the "associations of ideas" that one makes when young are more important than those made later because they are the foundation of the self: they are, put differently, what first mark the tabula rasa. In his Essay, in which is introduced both of these concepts, Locke warns against, for example, letting "a foolish maid" convince a child that "goblins and sprites" are associated with the night for "darkness shall ever afterwards bring with it those frightful ideas, and they shall be so joined, that he can no more bear the one than the other."[22] "Associationism", as this theory would come to be called, exerted a powerful influence over eighteenth-century thought, particularly educational theory, as nearly every educational writer warned parents not to allow their children to develop negative associations. It also led to the development of psychology and other new disciplines with David Hartley's attempt to discover a biological mechanism for associationism in his Observations on Man (1749).

 The Two Treatises of Government  The False Principles and Foundation of Sir Robert Filmer, And His Followers, are Detected and Overthrown. The Latter is an Essay concerning The True Original, Extent, and End of Civil-Government" A work of political philosophy published anonymously in 1689 by John Locke. The First Treatise attacks patriarchalism in the form of sentence-by-sentence refutation of Robert Filmer's Patriarcha and the Second Treatise outlines a theory of political or civil society based on natural rights and contract theory.

Historical Context

King James II of England (VII of Scotland) was overthrown in 1688 by a union of Parliamentarians and stadtholder of the Dutch Republic William III of Orange-Nassau (William of Orange), who as a result ascended the English throne as William III of England. This invasion and conquest of England is known as the Glorious Revolution, also called the Revolution of 1688. Locke claims in the "Preface" to the Two Treatises that its purpose is to justify William III's ascension to the throne, though Peter Laslett suggests that the bulk of the writing was instead completed between 1679-1680 (and subsequently revised until Locke was driven into exile in 1683).[1] According to Laslett, Locke was writing his Two Treatises during the Exclusion Crisis which attempted to prevent James II from ever taking the throne in the first place. Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury, Locke's mentor, patron and friend, introduced the bill, but it was ultimately unsuccessful. Richard Ashcraft, following in Laslett's suggestion that the Two Treatises were written before the Revolution, objected that Shaftesbury's party did not advocate revolution during the Exclusion Crisis. He suggests that they are instead better associated the revolutionary conspiracies that swirled around what would come to be known as the Rye House Plot.[2] Locke, Shaftesbury and many others were forced into exile; some, such as Sidney, were even executed for treason. Locke knew his work was dangerous—he never acknowledged his authorship within his lifetime.

Main ideas

Two Treatises is divided into the First Treatise and the Second Treatise. The original title of the Second Treatise appears to have been simply "Book II," corresponding to the title of the First Treatise, "Book I." Before publication, however, Locke gave it greater prominence by (hastily) inserting a separate title page: "An Essay Concerning the True Original, Extent and End of Civil Government."[10] The First Treatise is focused on the refutation of Sir Robert Filmer, in particular his Patriarcha which argued that civil society was founded on a divinely-sanctioned patriarchalism. Locke proceeds through Filmer's arguments, contesting his proofs from Scripture and ridiculing them as senseless, until concluding that no government can be justified by an appeal to the divine right of kings. The Second Treatise outlines a theory of civil society. Locke begins by describing the state of nature, a picture much more stable than Thomas Hobbes' state of "war of every man against every man," and argues that all men are created equal in the state of nature by God. From this, he goes on to explain the hypothetical rise of property and civilization, in the process explaining that the only legitimate governments are those which have the consent of the people. Thus, any government that rules without the consent of the people can, in theory, be overthrown. ___

First Treatise

The First Treatise is an extended attack on Sir Robert Filmer's Patriarcha. Locke's argument proceeds along two lines: first, he undercuts the Scriptural support that Filmer had offered for his thesis, and second he argues that the acceptance of Filmer's thesis can lead only to absurdity. Locke chose Filmer as his target, he says, because of his reputation and because he "carried this Argument [jure divino] farthest, and is supposed to have brought it to perfection" (1st Tr., §5). Filmer's text presented an argument for a divinely-ordained, hereditary, absolute monarchy. According to Filmer, the Biblical Adam in his role as father possessed unlimited power over his children and this authority passed down through the generations. Locke attacks this on several grounds. Accepting that fatherhood grants authority, he argues, it would do so only by the act of begetting, and so cannot be transmitted to one's children because only God can create life. Nor is the power of a father over his children absolute, as Filmer would have it; Locke points to the joint power parents share over their children outlined in the Bible. In the Second Treatise Locke returns to a discussion of parental power. (Both of these discussions have drawn the interest of modern feminists such as Carole Pateman.) Filmer also suggested that Adam's absolute authority came from his ownership over all the world. To this, Locke rebuts that the world was originally held in common (a theme that will return in the Second Treatise). But, even if it were not, he argues, God's grant to Adam covered only the land and brute animals, not human beings. Nor could Adam, or his heir, leverage this grant to enslave mankind, for the law of nature forbids reducing one's fellows to a state of desperation, if one possesses a sufficient surplus to maintain oneself securely. And even if this charity were not commanded by reason, Locke continues, such a strategy for gaining dominion would prove only that the foundation of government lies in consent. Locke intimates in the First Treatise that the doctrine of divine right of kings (jure divino) will eventually be the downfall of all governments. In his final chapter Locke asks, "Who heir?" If Filmer is correct, there should be only one rightful king in all the world—the heir of Adam. But since it is impossible to discover the true heir of Adam, no government, under Filmer's principles, can require that its members obey its rulers. Filmer must therefore say that men are duty-bound to obey their present rulers. Locke writes:
I think he is the first Politician, who, pretending to settle Government upon its true Basis, and to establish the Thrones of lawful Princes, ever told the World, That he was properly a King, whose Manner of Government was by Supreme Power, by what Means soever he obtained it; which in plain English is to say, that Regal and Supreme Power is properly and truly his, who can by any Means seize upon it; and if this be, to be properly a King, I wonder how he came to think of, or where he will find, an Usurper. (1st Tr., §79)
Locke ends the First Treatise by examining the history told in the Bible and the history of the world since then; he concludes that there is no evidence to support Filmer's hypothesis. According to Locke, no king has ever claimed that his authority rested upon his being the heir of Adam. It is Filmer, Locke alleges, that is the innovator in politics, not those who assert the natural equality and freedom of man.

Second Treatise

The Second Treatise is notable for a number of themes which Locke develops therein. It begins with a depiction of the state of nature, wherein individuals are under no obligation to obey one another but are each themselves judge of what the law of nature requires. It also covers conquest and slavery, property, representative government, and the right of revolution.

State of Nature

Locke defines the state of nature thus:

"To properly understand political power and trace its origins, we must consider the state that all people are in naturally. That is a state of perfect freedom of acting and disposing of their own possessions and persons as they think fit within the bounds of the law of nature. People in this state do not have to ask permission to act or depend on the will of others to arrange matters on their behalf. The natural state is also one of equality in which all power and jurisdiction is reciprocal and no one has more than another. It is evident that all human beings – as creatures belonging to the same species and rank and born indiscriminately with all the same natural advantages and faculties – are equal amongst themselves. They have no relationship of subordination or subjection unless God (the lord and master of them all) had clearly set one person above another and conferred on him an undoubted right to dominion and sovereignty."[11]
The work of Thomas Hobbes made theories based upon a state of nature popular in seventeenth-century England, even as most of those who employed such arguments were deeply troubled by his absolutist conclusions. Locke's state of nature can be seen in light of this tradition. Because there is no divinely ordained monarch over all the world, as was argued in the First Treatise, the natural state of mankind is anarchic. In contrast to Hobbes, who posited the state of nature as a hypothetical possibility, Locke took great pains to show that such a state did indeed exist. Indeed, it exists wherever there is no legitimate government. Whereas Hobbes speaks of the misery of the State of Nature more directly, Locke waits until Chapter IX to describe the state of nature as one that 'however free, is full of continual dangers.' While no individual in this state may tell another what to do or authoritatively pronounce justice in a given case, men are not free to do whatever they please. "The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges every one: and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind, who will but consult it" (2nd Tr., §6). The specifics of this law are unwritten, however, and so each is likely to misapply it in his own case. Lacking any commonly recognized, impartial judge, there is no way to correct these misapplications. Even were such a judge available, the just are vastly outnumbered by the unjust and indifferent, so his pronouncements would lack effect. This section, §6, also presumes theism. In other words, rather than arguing for the presence of men by natural ideas, Locke assumes that all men are born by God. The law of nature is therefore ill enforced in the state of nature.
IF man in the state of nature be so free, as has been said; if he be absolute lord of his own person and possessions, equal to the greatest, and subject to no body, why will he part with his freedom? Why will he give up this empire, and subject himself to the dominion and control of any other power? To which it is obvious to answer, that though in the state of nature he hath such a right, yet the enjoyment of it is very uncertain, and constantly exposed to the invasion of others: for all being kings as much as he, every man his equal, and the greater part no strict observers of equity and justice, the enjoyment of the property he has in this state is very unsafe, very unsecure. This makes him willing to quit a condition, which, however free, is full of fears and continual dangers: and it is not without reason, that he seeks out, and is willing to join in society with others, who are already united, or have a mind to unite, for the mutual preservation of their lives, liberties and estates, which I call by the general name, property. (2nd Tr., §123)
What should be a state of peace very quickly begins to look like the state of war that Hobbes described (though the ill enforcement of the law of nature does not release individuals from their obligation to it, as it does in Hobbes). It is to avoid the state of war that often occurs in the state of nature and to protect their private property that men enter into civil or political society, i.e. state of society. It is also the state to which men return upon the dissolution of government, i.e., under tyranny.

Conquest and slavery

Ch. 4 ("Of Slavery") and Ch. 16 ("Of Conquest") are sources of some confusion: the former provides a justification for slavery, the latter, the rights of conquerors. Because the Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina provided that a master had perfect authority over his slaves, some have taken these chapters to be an apology for the institution of slavery in Colonial America. Most Locke scholars roundly reject this reading, as it is directly at odds with the text. The extent of Locke's involvement in drafting the Fundamental Constitutions is a matter of some debate, but even attributing full culpability for its contents and for his having profited from the Atlantic slave trade, the majority of experts will concede that Locke may have been a hypocrite in this matter, but are adamant that no part of the Two Treatises can be used to provide theoretical support for slavery by bare right of conquest. In the rhetoric of seventeenth-century England, those who opposed the increasing power of the kings claimed that the country was headed for a condition of slavery. Locke therefore asks, facetiously, under what conditions such slavery might be justified. He notes that slavery cannot come about as a matter of contract (which will be the basis of Locke's political system). To be a slave is to be subject to the absolute, arbitrary power of another; as men do not have this power even over themselves, they cannot sell or otherwise grant it to another. One that is deserving of death, i.e., who has violated the law of nature, may be enslaved. This is, however, "but the state of war continued" (2nd Tr., §24), and even one justly a slave therefore has no obligation to obedience. In providing a justification for slavery, he has rendered all forms of slavery as it actually exists invalid. Moreover, as one may not submit to slavery, there is a moral injunction to attempt to throw off and escape it whenever it looms. Most scholars take this to be Locke's point regarding slavery: submission to absolute monarchy is a violation of the law of nature, for one does not have the right to enslave oneself. The legitimacy of an English king depended on (somehow) demonstrating descent from William the Conqueror: the right of conquest was therefore a topic rife with constitutional connotations. Locke does not say that all subsequent English monarchs have been illegitimate, but he does make their rightful authority dependent solely upon their having acquired the people's approbation. Locke first argues that, clearly, aggressors in an unjust war can claim no right of conquest: everything they despoil may be retaken as soon as the dispossessed have the strength to do so. Their children retain this right, so an ancient usurpation does not become lawful with time. The rest of the chapter then considers what rights a just conqueror might have. The argument proceeds negatively: Locke proposes one power a conqueror could gain, and then demonstrates how in point of fact that power cannot be claimed. He gains no authority over those that conquered with him, for they did not wage war unjustly: thus, whatever other right William may have had in England, he could not claim kingship over his fellow Normans by right of conquest. The subdued are under the conqueror's despotical authority, but only those who actually took part in the fighting. Those who were governed by the defeated aggressor do not become subject to the authority of the victorious aggressor. They lacked the power to do an unjust thing, and so could not have granted that power to their governors: the aggressor therefore was not acting as their representative, and they cannot be punished for his actions. And while the conqueror may seize the person of the vanquished aggressor in an unjust war, he cannot seize the latter's property: he may not drive the innocent wife and children of a villain into poverty for another's unjust acts. While the property is technically that of the defeated, his innocent dependents have a claim to it to which the just conqueror must yield. He cannot seize more than the vanquished could forfeit, and the latter had no right to ruin his dependents. (He may, however, demand and take reparations for the damages suffered in the war, so long as these leave enough in the possession of the aggressor's dependants for their survival). In so arguing, Locke accomplishes two objectives. First, he neutralizes the claims of those who see all authority flowing from William I by the latter's right of conquest. In the absence of any other claims to authority (e.g., Filmer's primogeniture from Adam, divine anointment, etc.), all kings would have to found their authority on the consent of the governed. Second, he removes much of the incentive for conquest in the first place, for even in a just war the spoils are limited to the persons of the defeated and reparations sufficient only to cover the costs of the war, and even then only when the aggressor's territory can easily sustain such costs (i.e., it can never be a profitable endeavor). Needless to say, the bare claim that one's spoils are the just compensation for a just war does not suffice to make it so, in Locke's view. 


In the Second Treatise, Locke claims that civil society was created for the protection of property. In saying this, he relies on the etymological root of "property," Latin proprius, or that which is one's own, including oneself (cf. French propre). Thus, by "property" he means "life, liberty, and estate." By saying that political society was established for the better protection of property, he claims that it serves the private (and non-political) interests of its constituent members: it does not promote some good which can be realized only in community with others (e.g., virtue). For this account to work, individuals must possess some property outside of society, i.e., in the state of nature: the state cannot be the sole origin of property, declaring what belongs to whom. If the purpose of government is the protection of property, the latter must exist independently of the former. Filmer had said that, if there even were a state of nature (which he denied), everything would be held in common: there could be no private property, and hence no justice or injustice (injustice being understood as treating someone else's goods, liberty, or life as if it were one's own). Thomas Hobbes had argued the same thing. Locke therefore provides an account of how material property could arise in the absence of government. He begins by asserting that each individual, at a minimum, "owns" himself; this is a corollary of each individual's being free and equal in the state of nature. As a result, each must also own his own labor: to deny him his labor would be to make him a slave. One can therefore take items from the common store of goods by mixing one's labor with them: an apple on the tree is of no use to anyone — it must be picked to be eaten — and the picking of that apple makes it one's own. In an alternate argument, Locke claims that we must allow it to become private property lest all mankind have starved, despite the bounty of the world. A man must be allowed to eat, and thus have what he has eaten be his own (such that he could deny others a right to use it). The apple is surely his when he swallows it, when he chews it, when he bites into it, when he brings it to his mouth, etc.: it became his as soon as he mixed his labor with it (by picking it from the tree). This does not yet say why an individual is allowed to take from the common store of nature. There is a necessity to do so in order to eat, but this does not yet establish why others must respect one's property, especially as they labor under the like necessity. Locke assures his readers that the state of nature is a state of plenty: one may take from communal store if one leaves a) as much and b) as good for others, and since nature is bountiful, one can take all that one can use without taking anything from someone else. Moreover, one can take only so much as one can use before it spoils. There are then two provisos regarding what one can take, the "as much and as good" condition and "spoilage." Gold does not rot. Neither does silver, or any other precious metal or gem. They are, moreover, useless, their aesthetic value not entering into the equation. One can heap up as much of them as one wishes, or take them in trade for food. By the tacit consent of mankind, they become a form of money (one accepts gold in exchange for apples with the understanding that someone else will accept that gold in exchange for wheat). One can therefore avoid the spoilage limitation by selling all that one has amassed before it rots; the limits on acquisition thus disappear. In this way, Locke argues that a full economic system could, in principle, exist within the state of nature. Property could therefore predate the existence of government, and thus society can be dedicated to the protection of property. In the Twentieth Century, Marxist scholars viewed Locke as the founder of bourgeois capitalism. Those who were opposed to communism accepted this reading of Locke, and celebrated him for it. He has therefore become associated with capitalism.

Representative government

It is a misconception that Locke and his social contract demanded a democracy. Rather, Locke felt that a legitimate contract could exist between citizens and monarchies or oligarchies. His ideas heavily influenced, however, both the American and French Revolutions. His notions of people's rights and the role of civil government provided strong support for the intellectual movements of both revolutions.

Right of Revolution

Locke believed that the relationship between the state and its citizens took the form of a 'contract,' whereby the governed agreed to surrender certain freedoms they enjoyed under the state of nature in exchange for the order and protection provided by a state, exercised according to the rule of law. However, if the state oversteps its limits and begins to exercise arbitrary power, it forfeits its 'side' of the contract and thus, the contract becomes void; the citizens not only have the right to overthrow the state, but are indeed morally compelled to revolt and replace it. Locke believes that the citizens are compelled to revolt because absolute power is never a remedy for the state of nature; however, Locke makes great effort to point out that if the citizens are going to revolt they must be on the right side of the issue. A secondary view on Locke's position of revolution argues that Locke requires that the legislative power must be dissolved, not by the actions of the common people, which effectively puts people back into the state of nature. This view would not suggest that people have the right to revolt, but rather to resist an arbitrary power to dissolve itself in order to make way for a new political structure.

Reception and Influence   


Although the Two Treatises would become well-known in the second half of the eighteenth century, they were somewhat neglected when published. Between 1689 and 1694, around 200 tracts and treatises were published concerning the legitimacy of the Glorious Revolution. Three of these mention Locke, two of which were written by friends of Locke.[12] When Hobbes published the Leviathan in 1651, by contrast, dozens of texts were immediately written in response to it. As Mark Goldie explains: "Leviathan was a monolithic and unavoidable presence for political writers in Restoration England in a way that in the first half of the eighteenth the Two Treatises was not."[13] While the Two Treatises did not become popular until the 1760s, ideas from them did start to become important earlier in the century. According to Goldie, "the crucial moment was 1701" and "the occasion was the Kentish petition." The pamphlet war that ensued was one of the first times Locke's ideas were invoked in a public debate, most notably by Daniel Defoe.[14] Locke's ideas did not go unchallenged and the periodical The Rehearsal, for example, launched a "sustained and sophisticated assault” against the Two Treatises and endorsed the ideology of patriarchalism.[15] Not only did patriarchalism continue to be a legitimate political theory in the eighteenth century, but as J. G. A. Pocock and others have gone to great lengths to demonstrate, so was civic humanism and classical republicanism. Pocock has argued that Locke's Two Treatises had very little effect on British political theory; he maintains that there was no contractarian revolution. Rather, he sees these other long-standing traditions as far more important for eighteenth-century British politics.[16]

In the middle of the eighteenth century, Locke's position as a political philosopher suddenly rose in prominence. For example, he was invoked by those arguing on behalf of the American colonies during the Stamp Act debates of 1765-6.[17] Marginalized groups such as women, Dissenters and those campaigning to abolish the slave trade all invoked Lockean ideals. But at the same time, as Goldie describes it, "a wind of doubt about Locke’s credentials gathered into a storm. The sense that Locke’s philosophy had been misappropriated increasingly turned to a conviction that it was erroneous.”[18] By the 1790s Locke was associated with Rousseau and Voltaire and being blamed for the American and French Revolutions as well as for the perceived secularization of society.[19] By 1815, Locke's portrait was taken down from Christ Church, his alma mater (it was later restored to a position of prominence, and currently hangs in the dining hall of the college).

North America 

 Locke's influence during the American Revolutionary period is disputed. While it is easy to point to specific instances of Locke's Two Treatises being invoked, the extent of the acceptance of Locke's ideals and the role they played in the American Revolution are far from clear. The Two Treatises are echoed in phrases in the Declaration of Independence and writings by Samuel Adams that attempted to gain support for the rebellion. Of Lockes influence Thomas Jefferson wrote: "Bacon, Locke and Newton I consider them as the three greatest men that have ever lived, without any exception, and as having laid the foundation of those superstructures which have been raised in the Physical & Moral sciences".[20][21]. The colonists frequently cited Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England, which synthesized Lockean political philosophy with the common law tradition. Louis Hartz, writing at the beginning of the twentieth century, took it for granted that Locke was the political philosopher of the revolution. This view was challenged by Bernard Bailyn and Gordon S. Wood, who argued that the revolution was not a struggle over property, taxation, and rights, but rather "a Machiavellian effort to preserve the young republic’s 'virtue' from the corrupt and corrupting forces of English politics."[22] Garry Wills, on the other hand, maintains that it was neither the Lockean tradition nor the classical republican tradition that drove the revolution, but instead Scottish moral philosophy, a political philosophy that based its conception of society on friendship, sensibility and the controlled passions.[23] Thomas Pangle and Michael Zuckert have countered, demonstrating numerous elements in the thought of more influential founders that have a Lockean pedigree.[24]

Controversies regarding interpretation

The Second Treatise was traditionally taken to be a refutation of Thomas Hobbes's Leviathan, the latter's support of absolute monarchism seemingly antithetical to Locke's ideal majoritarian government. Scholarship in the Twentieth Century has modified this view somewhat, though the views of Locke that result from these interpretations often have little in common.Leo Strauss in his Natural Right and History contentiously argues that Locke is more or less Hobbesian in his conception of politics. Strauss claims that the supposed egoism of Hobbes' natural law and the ostensible altruism of Locke's can be reduced to an identical moral framework, one in which people are to treat others as others treat them, to be selfless when others are selfless, selfish when others are selfish. Strauss argued that Locke only distanced himself from Hobbes rhetorically, in order to make his system more publicly acceptable. In this way, Locke corrects Hobbes on Hobbesian principles, and so should not be read as breaking from him philosophically. At about the same time, C. B. Macpherson argued in his Political Theory of Possessive Individualism that Hobbes and Locke stood together in laying the groundwork for proto-capitalism. He saw them both as instigators of the liberal tendency to view the subject as a possessive entity in an economic sense, and argued that Locke's striking account of property rights in the state of nature should be read primarily as a justification for market economic relationships. The Cambridge School of political thought, led principally by Quentin Skinner, John Pocock, Richard Ashcraft, and others, developed in opposition to interpretations such as Strauss's and, to a lesser extent, Macpherson's. It focuses on placing much of Locke's political philosophy within its historical context, following the trail laid by Peter Laslett in the Introduction to his edition of the Two Treatises. Laslett argued that, contrary to the traditional view that Locke had composed the Two Treatises in order to legitimize the 1688 Glorious Revolution, they were actually written surrounding the Exclusion Crisis a decade earlier. Laslett declined to establish a firm relationship between Locke's thought and that of Hobbes, but did note some similar themes. Richard Ashcraft argued in Revolutionary Politics and Locke's "Two Treatises of Government" that Locke instead wrote the Two Treatises later, and that he should therefore be associated with the Radical Whigs and the intrigues surrounding the Rye House Plot and the Monmouth Rebellion. These associations, and the economic system prevalent in England at the time, Ashcraft argued, render Macpherson's interpretation historically implausible. He also asserted that the absence of any reference to Hobbes, the questionable utility of refuting Hobbes when he was a non-issue in the most immediate debates, and the fact that Locke claims to have never read Hobbes or Spinoza, "those justly-decried names," harms any interpretation that interprets Locke as in any way responding to Hobbes. This last point is leveled most vociferously against Strauss's interpretation. Regarding the relation between Locke's thought and that of Hobbes, the core of the dispute centers on the literary character of the Two Treatises. Those who support a connection of any sort treat the work as having been intended, at least in part, as a philosophic tract, and therefore as potentially speaking beyond the immediate political context. Those who deny such a connection insist that the Two Treatises are nothing more than a particularly popular remnant of an ideologically driven political contest, and were not meant to address any broader questions. __________________________________________________________________________________

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